The Alabama-Tennessee matchup went about as expected on Saturday afternoon at Neyland Stadium. The Volunteer offense just wasn’t up to the task of keeping up with the Crimson Tide, who could have easily scored 50, maybe 60 points if necessary.
It was a familiar feeling for Tennessee fans, one of complete helplessness. When do things start to change? We thought they may have turned a corner in the 2019 Alabama game, playing competitively for a good 40 minutes or so. But the 2020 version was a return to the norm — hopeless.
Alabama was going to score, it was just a matter of how quickly. Tennessee’s struggling offense was no match.
The gap between the two programs is obvious, but Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt insists that the gap is getting smaller.
“I was on the other sideline three years ago, you think I didn’t see that? I can assure you that the gap is closing,” Pruitt said after the 48-17 loss. It might not show on the scoreboard today, but the gap is closing. I can assure you that. That’s one thing that is frustrating to me and it is frustrating to our players. There are times that we have done some really good things as a team, whether it is the offense playing really well or the defense playing really well or special teams. We’ve not put any of that together.”
Tennessee played another elite team in Georgia tough for a half, but the talent eventually took over. Self-inflicted wounds certainly didn’t help, but the battle in the trenches was one-sided. Tennessee’s issues in the secondary were also amplified late.
As badly as we want Tennessee to take that next step and compete with the elite, they’re just not there yet. Pruitt can tell us that he sees progress, but in year three, it’s fair of fans to ask for tangible evidence. We simply don’t have that so far in 2020.
“(Elite teams) don’t have many bad plays and they don’t make many mistakes. They make the other team beat them,” Pruitt continued. “There have been times where we have done that this year, but we haven’t done it for a whole game, even the games we have won. This will be a great opportunity this next week to go back and see where we are at this point and where we have improved. From that we’ll have an opportunity to fix some things moving forward.”
Tennessee has a bye week ahead of a fascinating game at Arkansas on November 7th. The bye comes at a much needed time, serving as a reset point at the halfway mark of the season. How Pruitt and this staff get this roster to respond coming out of it is a critical point for this program.